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eCommerce is now the fastest growing retail sector in the world, and online shopping sales are expected to double by 2020. Whether you’re selling physical goods, digital downloads, or services, there has never been a better time to open an online store – and WordPress has the tools you need to create an eCommerce website on even the slimmest of budgets. Here’s a rundown of the essentials you need to start and run a successful online shop on your eCommerce WordPress website.

WordPress Supports eCommerce

There has never been a better time to set up an online store with WordPress than now. Because business is booming in the eCommerce world, a variety of platforms are available to entrepreneurs looking for their own piece of online real estate. Large eCommerce platforms, such as Shopify and BigCommerce, as well as smaller niche marketplaces for specific kinds of goods, can host an online store for a monthly or annual fee that typically offers simple store setup and a certain amount of storage space. However, the store you open on one of these eCommerce hosts isn’t actually your own. If the hosting site crashes or closes, so does your store – and your options for customizing your store and controlling its content are limited by the platform’s terms of service and available tools.

Building your online store with WordPress hosting and a reliable hosting provider gives you control over every aspect of your site and all its content. Whether you’re a new user with little to no coding skills or a seasoned developer who can work with the WordPress core code, it is possible to create a fully functional eCommerce website with an array of free and premium WordPress eCommerce themes, templates, and plugins available from WordPress and third party developers from around the world.

To function properly and provide the kind of shopping experience today’s consumers expect, your WordPress online store needs to be visually appealing, secure, and user-friendly. That means that the platform needs to offer WordPress users all the essential features of traditional retail outlets, plus others unique to the online world such as live chat, customer accounts and profiles, and options for downloading purchased digital goods such as audio, video or text files. If you have a domain name and hosting, then installing the latest version of WordPress gives you access to all the tools you need to add these and a variety of customization options to your new store.

Choose the Right Theme for Your Store

One of your first steps after installing WordPress is to choose a theme for your store. There are hundreds of eCommerce WordPress theme options available from the WordPress directory, and hundreds more can be purchased or even downloaded for free from third party developers and asset marketplaces. Many of these are specifically designed to support eCommerce ventures, with layouts and other features for showcasing both digital and physical goods. Although just about any WordPress theme can support the many WordPress eCommerce plugins that add store functions to your site, choosing an eCommerce related theme that reflects your brand and type of business can streamline the process of creating your store, especially if you don’t have coding expertise.

Install eCommerce Plugins for Essential Store Functions

Your WordPress theme defines the appearance and layout of your site, but to add the complete suite of online retail functions to your site, you’ll need to install one of the many free or premium WordPress eCommerce plugins that add full estore functionality to your site. Depending on the nature of your online venture, you can choose from a variety of plugins and their various extensions to add essential ecommerce features including:

  • Product display pages, including catalogs and category listings
  • Shopping carts and checkout functions
  • Secure payment gateways for multiple currencies
  • Shipping calculators for physical goods
  • Download management for digital goods
  • Tools for creating membership and subscription sites
  • Order tracking
  • Options for creating customer accounts and profiles
  • Contact information, live chat, and other customer service tools

WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugin in the world, powering nearly a third of all online stores worldwide – and it is available completely free from the WordPress plugin directory that comes with your new site. WooCommerce includes all the tools for setting up a basic eCommerce site with WordPress, and users can extend its functionality with a multitude of extensions for adding popular payment gateways, including PayPal and Stripe, custom shipping calculators, and product management functions. If you don’t know how to use WooCommerce, there are many online guides to help you get started.

Along with WooCommerce, WordPress users can also choose from eCommerce plugins designed for niche-specific functions. For example, IThemes Exchange is available in both free and premium versions from the WordPress directory for creating not only a retail eCommerce store, but also membership and subscription sites, and plugins like Easy Digital Downloads add all the features you need to sell digital goods such as images, audio and video files, and ebooks. Other plugins can be purchased from plugin developers and marketplaces to add more specialized features related to specific kinds of eCommerce ventures.

Popular eCommerce platforms for WordPress

  • ecwid ecommerce
  • bigcommerce wordpress
  • wp easycart

Add Security Features for Your WordPress Site

Every online business must deal with a certain amount of sensitive customer data, such as identity, location, and credit card information, and your customers need to trust that this information will be protected from theft and hacking. Your WordPress eCommerce solution includes tools for safeguarding payment information and storing credit cards for future purchases, and your web hosting service also provides basic security features. You can also take additional steps to protect your customers’ personal information. Consider adding an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate (designated by https) to the site, and keep your site and all its related eCommerce plugins updated, too, since WordPress updates are often aimed at fixing security issues both large and small.

Unlike their brick and mortar counterparts, eCommerce stores can be created in minutes, often for little more than the cost of a domain name and web hosting. With an array of free and premium themes and eCommerce plugins, and a worldwide community of support from dedicated users and developers, WordPress for websites has the eCommerce solution entrepreneurs need to launch a thriving online store.

Tips When Setting Up Your Online Store

  • Set up Google Analytics
  • Ensure your site is mobile responsive
  • Link to your social media
  • Use SEO (search engine optimization) best practices

Ready to build your WordPress website? For further questions, check out our WordPress guide or call one of our experts at Bluehost today.

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